Sunday, May 15, 2016

Walker neglect = state spending money it doesn't have just to keep staff

You don't think underfunding and underappreciating state services has a significant cost? The evidence from Fitzwalkerstan proves otherwise.

UW-Madison alone spent nearly $9 million in retention bonuses over the last 6 months of 2015 to keep faculty and staff at the school. And more is sure to follow, given the increasing number of faculty and staff that are tempted to leave Madtown due to budget cuts and the demolition of tenure by the Wisconsin GOP, which has caused the university to shell out even more just to maintain quality.
UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said Friday that the university has been working to retain valued faculty.

"We value all of our faculty and want them to continue their productive and important work, much of which directly or indirectly benefits the people of the state of Wisconsin, here at UW-Madison," Lucas said in a statement.

"We have prioritized retention efforts and have invested nearly $13 million this academic year in research grants and support to help ensure we can remain competitive with outside offers from other universities. Similarly, we have invested $8 million in recruitments," he said. "The university continues to make its case on a daily basis about the value it provides to students, families and the people of the state. Our faculty are vital to providing that value."
I'll go with the $13 million number for now as an extra cost, as the $8 million for recruitment can be regular administrative costs.

Then remember that the Wisconsin Department of Corrections announced earlier this month that is would give $10 million in raises to staff, in order to increase retention at an agency that has taken a lot of hits in the last year due to Walker/WisGOP mismanagement.
Wisconsin prisons have long grappled with severe staffing shortages, resulting in employees working longer shifts that have sapped morale. One of every 10 security positions was open as of Oct. 31, according to the agency. The problems were the worst at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, where roughly 20 percent of jobs were unfilled as of August, according to a Legislative Audit Bureau review.

Almost one in five jobs at Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake was open as of last month, according to DOC figures. Of 87 youth counselor positions, 14 were vacant. Of 59 advanced counselor positions, 14 also were open. That facility is under a sweeping federal investigation into allegations staffers abused inmates.

What’s more, 20 percent of the agency’s correctional officers and sergeants are currently eligible for retirement, with 35 percent eligible within five years and 54 percent eligible within 10, Thursday’s news release said.

Gov. Scott Walker appointed Litscher DOC secretary in February, replacing Ed Wall, who resigned in the wake of the youth prison investigation. Litscher told state senators during his confirmation hearing in March that the public had lost confidence in the DOC and that he wanted to reduce forced overtime.
DOC claims they will somehow find the $10 million through other cost savings, but I doubt that, especially with all of the extra OT costs and the money spent having to deal with the inevitable lawsuits and punishments from the scandal at Lincoln Hills. So let's figure an extra cost of $10 million there.

Now take a look at the finalized 2015-17 budget, and I want to point out one line item in particular, "Compensation Reserves." As the LFB describes, Comp Reserves go to the following.
Typically, amounts within the compensation reserves are funds to pay for such items as: (a) the employer share of increased premium costs in the forthcoming fiscal biennium for state employee health insurance; (b) the costs of any general wage adjustments or negotiated pay increases; (c) increases in the employer share of contributions to the state retirement fund for employees' future state retirement benefits; and (d) pension obligations bond payments for the state's unfunded prior service liability for retirement benefits and the accumulated sick leave conversion credit program.
Retention bonuses like we've seen with UW-Madison and the Department of Corrections fall under part (b). The problem is that because the state budget was so tight, almost no money was set aside for these funds.

Compensation Reserves, 2015-17 budget
2015-16 $10.7 million
2016-17 $18.6 million
TOTAL $29.3 million

And now we've blown $23 million of those funds at UW-Madison and the Department of Corrections alone, which means there is practically NO money available anywhere else in the budget for raises, higher health insurance costs, or basically anything else. So not only do we have a likely revenue shortfall on one side (as evidence by the Walker Administration's $101 million "scoop and toss" trick from this week), there also seem to be a crunch coming on the expense side because of the extra funds that have to paid as a result of the Walker Admin's underfunding and understaffing of the UW and DOC.

The scary part- I bet those two agencies are not the only ones suffering from a lack of pay and staffing at the state. But again, providing quality service and attracting quality personnel with adequate pay isn't something that the Walker folks care much about. In fact, making state agencies dysfunctional is a direct part of the ALEC agenda, both in ineffective/non-existent regulation of campaign contributors, and in giving the excuse to privatize such agencies to those same contributors.

But that neglect sure comes at a high price for the rest of us.


  1. So how much would we have to pay Walker and the republicans in the state legislature to go away so we can actually solve the problems that they have created?

    Whatever the cost, it would be money well spent to make these fools just GO AWAY.

    1. Unfortunately, the GOPs seem to like the government-funded paycheck, benefits and the donor-paid meals and drinks at fundraisers. And they call US the takers!

      So I guess we have to vote em out instead.

  2. I know other departments are giving raises to new employees, who are not staying. Inexperience is costing the state more. Fear is pervasive, moral low.

    1. Thanks for the update, Corey. I have little doubt what you say is true, and with a whole lotta Boomers nearing retirement, it'll take a lot more to get and keep people.